Hearing management

Updated 12 August 2016

How a doctor would remove your earwax

You may be tempted to try to remove earwax build-up at home, but are you doing it they way a doctor would?


Scientists say that we have earwax to help protect the delicate ear canal and to trap dust, foreign objects and small flying insects, but no one knows for sure. It is known that the amount of wax you produce is genetically determined.

A proper syringing

One thing we do know is that wax build-up can cause symptoms like itchy ears, dizziness, a sensation of blocked ears and even a diminished sense of hearing. The first thing we reach for is a earbud or pin. Not only does using these implements worsen the problem, but cleaning your ears with pointed objects can damage the canal and the eardrum.

Read: Earbuds linked to ruptured eardrums

To solve the problem of blocked ears, best would be to visit your doctor for a proper syringing. Prior to your visit, put some wax-softening drops in your ear. Waxol drops work well.

Here's how you get those nasty wax plugs out of your ears:

1. Place some wax softening ear drops in your ear canal for a day or two.

2. Get a suction bulb (like the ones used to suck mucus from a baby's nose) and body-temperature water.

3. By softly aiming a gentle stream of water to the top part of the ear canal, you may manage to dislodge and wash some of the wax out.

4. Repeat the process a few of times.

5. If you don't have any success, stop! Continuous washing may damage the canal or ear drum.

When should you NOT self-syringe:

1. If you have grommets

2. If you have or previously had a hole in your tempanic membrane

3. If you have ear pain

4. If your ear canal is exceptionally narrow

5. If you've experienced dizzy spells 

Read more:

What causes foul-smelling ears?

The 10 worst jobs for your ears

Is inaudible noise making you deaf?

Image: Medical ear wash from Shutterstock

Dr. Owen J. Wiese is Health24's resident doctor. After graduating from Stellenbosch University with additional qualifications in biochemistry and physiology he developed a keen interest in providing medical information through the media.


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Hearing Expert

Francis Slabber is a Speech & Language Therapist and Audiologist who has owned and run The Hearing Clinic in Wynberg, Cape Town for the last 17 years. Francis and her team have extensive experience in fitting and supplying hearing aids as well as assistive living devices. Francis has served as the Western Cape Chairperson for the South African Association of Audiologists for three years and has given many talks on the topic of hearing loss and amplification. The Hearing Clinic has a special interest in adult and geriatric hearing impairment, hearing aid fittings and hearing rehabilitation.

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